Rhea Myers

Copyleft And Marxism

I am a militant liberal, possibly a socialist libertarian. My political motto is “beware teleology”, so I regard pluralism as the least worst option for society given what happens when societies fall under ideological closures. Including Neoliberalism. Pluralism has come to be the basis of my ongoing interest in copyleft. I believe it strongly supports pluralism. I am nonetheless not delusional regarding the scope and socioeconomic effects of copyleft. It is not a panacea, and I think that Negativland’s Expanded Fair Use might be a better baseline for creative freedom in bourgeois capitalist society were it not for the practicalities.

My research over the last few years has only strengthened my regard for Stallmanism. This research has taken me through venture capitalism, the economics of Web 2.0, neoliberal ethics, the history of the enclosure and allotment movements, the levellers and diggers, 1968 in France, LIP self-management, various anarchist texts, the production of Classical Greek pottery, the history of collectives and LETS schemes, and all sorts of other historical and sociopolitical/economic moments. Oh and Lessig’s writing and that of Isaiah Berlin and of Mackenzie Wark. I have maintained my interest in copyleft not due to doctrinal monomania but to being unable to find anything better given current historical conditions.

I’m writing this to try to gather my thoughts prior to responding to someone who has objected to my criticism of their essay. They have accused me of regarding copyleft as perfect and immutable and believing that anyone who doesn’t share this opinion just needs to read the right books. I have taken several days to consider this and have come to the conclusion that my position will be practically indiscernible from that position for them, but that this is a mischaracterisation of what I believe.

I do believe that copyleft will support the ends of socialists and marxists within society better than a licensing scheme that seeks to refuse “the commons” to “capitalist exploitation of wage labour”. I believe this because of my long consideration of the self-defeating effects of the Non-Commercial Creative Commons Licence and other discriminatory licenses, and because I don’t believe that capital is stupid enough not to start selling picks and shovels to the workers who will be the only permitted users of such a licence if one is ever written.

I also believe that there is probably some interest for marxist students of the property question in essays titled “Why Software Should Not Have Owners” and “Did You Say Intellectual Property? It’s A Seductive Mirage”.

But I am interested to hear if any of my more marxisant readers think I am talking bollocks, and if so exactly why. Anyone?

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